Laptop recommendations for a literature student? detailed list attached


Jun 4, 2012
Hello, I am looking for a new laptop to replace my toshiba portege R705 because it is getting unbearably slow now. I purchased the Toshiba one based on Amazon review, but was not satisfied with the purchase. So this time I decide to get some advice from here:) Here are my expectations:

1) Portable, 12-14 inches, light, no need for optical drive. Windows, no Mac pls.
2) battery life 8+ hours (my old toshiba claims it has 8 hours battery life but that's a lie)
3) multitasking: When I write research papers, I normally need to open 15+ ie windows, 15+ PDF windows, 5+ firefox windows, 5+ MS word windows and several other annotating and footnoting applications at the same time, and work with 4 languages. Once I begin to write, I need to keep my laptop like that for one to three weeks. My old Toshiba cannot handle this at an acceptable speed.
4) I don't play games on my laptop. I watch movies, but do not care much about the resolution.
5) Durable, hope to use it for 3+ years.
6) I live in US and regularly travel to China, Korea and Japan, so a global warranty is prefered.
7) Budget: under $1500.

I will be happy to answer more questions about my needs. Please help me to find my ideal laptop. Thank you!


I recommend the Lenovo ThinkPad T420s with the optional bay battery to be swapped with the DVD drive. There are not many laptops that can offer up to 8 hours of battery life. Most tends to end up in the 6 - 7 hours range, but most thin and light laptops / ultrabooks tends to max out at 6 hours.

- ThinkPad laptops are semi-rugged so if you tend to travel a lot, then this is a good thing.
- The starting weight is 3.7lbs but swapping out the DVD drive for a bay battery will increase the weight.
- The 1600x900 resolution screen makes it more ideal for constant multitasking rather than a smaller 1366x768 resolution screen.
- Since you do heavy multitasking I recommend you upgrade the RAM to 8GB instead of the standard 4GB.
- The "up to 10 hours of battery life" claim most likely assumes you will have a SSD (solid state drive - basically flash memory hard drive) since they consume less power than a standard hard drive. But they are expensive and have low storage capacity compared to a hard drive.
- Unfortunately, it seem Lenovo nixed the LED light that shines one the keyboard which allowed you to type in the dark.


A cheaper alternative is the ThinkPad T420. However, it's weighs in a just under 5lbs, but that is with the 6-cell battery. Reviews have stated that using the optional 9-cell battery can prove up to 10 hours of battery life, but increases the weight to around 5.33lbs. If you purchase the optional "slice battery" total battery life is increased up to 30 hours. Not sure how much weight that will add though.

More or less similar specs to the T420s. I believe the optical drive is removable ("modular") so it can removed to save weight while traveling. Again, upgrading to 8GB of RAM is recommended.


Lenovo will be releasing their successors "soon"; the T430 this month and the T430s probably next month.

I'm not going into the specific differences other than to say that they keyboard has been changed from "old style keyboard" to the new chicklet / island style keyboard that was introduced around 2 -3 years ago. The other major difference is the new Intel Ivy Bridge CPUs which are a little more powerful and power efficient than the previous generation Sandy Bridge CPUs in the T420 and T420s laptops. It will not dramatically increase battery life, but it should help to prolong it.


If you want to go smaller than you need to accept a lower resolution screen which can make switching between windows/tabs/apps a bit annoying.

There's the 13.3" ThinkPad X1 which has a 1366x768 resolution screen. It weighs in at 3.7lbs. It can have up to 10 hours of battery life with the optional "slice battery", but it will also increase the weight. Lenovo no longer directly sells the ThinkPad X1, but you can find it in a store. The reason is because it will be replaced by the 14" ThinkPad X1 - Carbon (as in carbon fiber chassis = Light, Rigid, Rugged and EXPENSIVE) probably by the end of summer.


Going further down the size scale is the 12.5" ThinkPad X220 with a 1366x768 resolution screen. It starts at just 3lbs and based on reviews that I've read, the standard 6-cell battery can indeed provide up to 8 hours of battery life. The optional "slice battery" can increase that up to 23 hours with a weight penalty.

It too will soon be replaced by the X230 coming this month. Notable update are:
1. Ivy Bridge CPU
2. 8GB of RAM standard
3. An IPS LCD screen rather than a typcial TN LCD screen. For the layman this means better viewing angles so that colors do not shift as much the more off center you are from the center of the screen.

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